viernes, septiembre 19, 2008

Pianists galore this season

A salutary trend of recent seasons has been the comeback of piano recitals. Not in the big cycles (Mozarteum Argentino, Festivales Musicales, Nuova Harmonia) who keep to one pianist per season (I would say that two is the right proportion) but in smaller venues and organizations. A major factor has been the appearance of Chopiniana, the cycle led by Martha Noguera in which there is always something of Chopin, but no longer exclusively as at first. Now we have eclectic programmes, which I find much better. Also, there is the increased activity of the Museo Fernández Blanco and other places. Truth to tell, in full season there are about 35 concerts a week of varied types, and no critic can –or should- cover all of them (some are below par), but there remains a substantial quantity of good concerts.

First, a Big League one. I have stated before my belief that Nelson Goerner is the best Argentine pianist of his generation; he is now 39. This was triumphantly confirmed by his wonderful concert for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo. I now raise the odds and place him as among the very best of the globe. He unites in ideal proportions transcendental technique and a deep maturity in phrasing and style. He may look unprepossessing but don´t be influenced by this: just listen to him five minutes and only the music will matter.

His programme was solidly Central European and nineteenth-century, and as usual, he chooses well. The 31 minutes that Schubert´s extraordinary Three Pieces (D.946) lasted convinced me again that this very late piano music from this composer, considered extended Impromptus, is among his most innovative and personal. Marvellously apposite and thoughtful interpretation, note-perfect to boot.

I have heard Beethoven´s Sonata No.26, wrongly called "Les adieux" (it should be "L´adieu"), quite often in concert, but this one stunned me, especially the fantastically difficult final "Vivacissimo", played with uncanny precision. Very slightly controversial was his version of Brahms´ late "Fantasies" op.116, three fast and virtuosistic Capricci interspersed with four contemplative Intermezzi; I hold no reserves about the beautifully intimate version of the Intermezzi, but some of the phrasing in the Capricci seemed to me a bit awkward.

Liszt´s "Petrarch Sonnet No.2" was simply ideal; his frenetic and almost impossible to play "Spanish Rhapsody" had the most fantastic execution I´ve ever heard; yes, Goerner is the mature artist that can gives us a reference Beethoven sonata, but he is also the coruscating virtuoso in showpieces. One string broke during it but he proceeded unfazed; however, apart from comprehensible exhaustion, it was apparently the reason for not playing an encore.

I was very angry when a freak and uncomprehensible call "from Martha Noguera" left me a message telling me that the concert by Libor Novácek was cancelled; it wasn´t! Apparently a boycott? Noguera of course was sorry and flabbergasted. I had good references from his concert, however. But I could hear the following pianist, the Canadian Daniel Wnukowski (debut), of Polish descent, 27-years-old. After agreeable versions of two arranged (well) pieces based on J.S.Bach´s originals (Busoni´s version of the chorale "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland", and the famous arrangement by Myra Hess of the chorus "Jesu, Joy of Men´s Desiring" from Cantata No. 147) we heard an appropriate but not impeccable Sonata Nº 10, K. 330, by Mozart, and a meritorious traversal of Beethoven´s last sonata, No. 32, where the initial movement seemed a bit too forceful and brusque but the second movement took its rightful time to develop from the initial slow theme to the intricate variations and innumerable trills of the last pages, finely done.

He came into his own in the enormously variegated 24 Preludes op.28 by Chopin, where he displayed not only his affinity with the style but also the big guns to deal with some of the atrociously difficult ones as if they were child´s play; this was great playing and show Wnukowski to be a distinguished Chopinian. And he manifested his virtuosism in the encore, the fun variations by Horowitz on Mendelssohn´s "Wedding March". The venue is unpleasant, the Teatro Santa María, dark and rather ugly, but the acoustics are good. After abundant vicissitudes, this third concert of the Chopiniana seemed to find a third and final piano for the cycle, a 1908 Steinway in good condition with its original ivory keys.

Another fine experience was offered by Ukrainian pianist Julia Bochovskaia at the Gran Rex/ Mozarteum Midday Concerts, a return visit since her 2006 local debut. Fresh, young and beautiful, she is solidly grounded and intelligent. Her traversal of Austro-German repertoire was both sensitive and solid, with finely honed technique and a keen sense of style. I could only hear the third movement from Haydn´s Sonata Hob. XVI:24 (due to BA´s infernal traffic), but it was clean and invigorating. She chose three beautiful Brahms pieces: the Intermezzi op.119 in C and op.117 in E flat and the strong Ballade op.118 in G minor; she handled them with expertise. Then she did a strange thing: she allowed no time for applause and went on directly to Schumann´s interesting "Humoresque" op.20, a mosaic of contrasting music: the Apollo/Eusebius introspective side and the fast, exhilarating Dionysos/Florestan side. Lovely playing all the way, complemented with two other Schumann pieces: the sanguine "Aufschwung" from "Fantasiestücke" op.12, and a slow one that my memory refused to identify.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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